Spin Boldak (Afghanistan): A Taliban security official stands guard at the Afghan side of the border on Monday. The situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been tense since the Taliban forces opened fire at a crossing, killing several civilians and wounding nearly a dozen, on Sunday.—AFP
Spin Boldak (Afghanistan): A Taliban security official stands guard at the Afghan side of the border on Monday. The situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been tense since the Taliban forces opened fire at a crossing, killing several civilians and wounding nearly a dozen, on Sunday.—AFP

• JI, JUI-F lawmakers call for engaging Taliban regime through parliamentary committee
• Dawar opposes talks with Afghan govt, warns of IS threat
• Chitrali’s remarks on Khar’s visit invoke women MNAs’ wrath

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday informed the National Assembly that Kabul had apologised to Islamabad over Sunday’s “unprovoked attack” on a village along the Pak-Afghan border, while lawmakers called for engaging the Afghan Taliban government through a parliamentary committee.

Meanwhile, Prime Minis­ter Shehbaz Sharif condemned the Chaman attack in the strongest terms, saying that it was “unfortunate and deserve[d] the strongest condemnation”.

“The Afghan interim government should ensure that such incidents are not repeated,” he added.

In a press conference later in the day, the prime minister said he was summoning a meeting to review the situation.

But while NA members, mostly belonging to right-wing religious parties, stressed the need for reconciliatory efforts between the two neighbouring countries, Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar forcefully opposed the idea, warning that tomorrow, Pakistan might have to face the threat of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the militant Islamic State group) if it continued to have a “soft corner” for those with a “militant mindset”.

According to the defence minister, Pakistan had responded effectively to the attack and targeted a military post on the other side, inflicting eight to nine casualties on the Afghan soldiers.

The Afghan authorities, he said, during a meeting of the border security committee had “admitted their mistake” and made the commitment that “it will not happen again”. He also said that Islamabad had not found any evidence that it was a planned attack.

The minister, who had visited Balochistan earlier in the day, said the Afghan forces carried out the “provocative” attack while Pakistani personnel were repairing a fence that had been damaged by some Afghans driving a US-era jeep.

He said heavy weapons were used by the Afghan side during the attack on a village, whose population is divided between the two countries.

Mr Asif said Pakistan was reeling from the impact of “internal instability” in Afghanistan and the attack on Pakistan’s counsellor in Kabul was also the result of the ongoing factional fight within Afghanistan.

However, when Mr Dawar took the floor, he declared that the “gun-toting Taliban had forcefully occupied Kabul helped by the US through the Doha deal”. He advised the authorities in Pakistan not to even call it a “government” in Afghanistan, or even talk about recognising it.

Earlier, speaking on points of order, a number of JUI-F and JI lawmakers expressed their concerns over the Chaman attack and demanded that a committee of the house be constituted, either under the speaker or Communications Minister Asad Mehmood, to hold talks with the Taliban regime in Kabul.

Responding to the demands, Mr Dawar said such an exercise would not bear any fruit.

He recalled that many delegations, comprising religious scholars, army generals and politicians had held talks with the Taliban, but without success and challenged the JUI-F and the JI members to make another effort to woo the Taliban, saying it would not have any positive impact.

Chaotic scenes

Meanwhile, the lower house of the parliament also witnessed chaotic scenes when a number of lawmakers, mostly from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), protested over insensitive remarks uttered by the lone JI member, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali.

The lawmakers took issue with Mr Chitrali’s assertion when he expressed his reservations over the government’s decision to send Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar to Kabul, stating that perhaps the move had a negative effect on the Taliban.

One after the other, women lawmakers and some others castigated the JI member for his remarks, declaring that the world had praised Pakistan for sending a woman minister to Afghanistan.

PPP’s Shazia Marri was the first to respond, followed by Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and MQM-P’s Kishwar Zehra. They also asked why Mr Chitrali was raising objections when the Taliban regime did not have any issues.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif supported the women lawmakers’ stance against Maulana Chitrali, and declared his remarks “uncalled for”.

Following the noisy protest and the insistence of federal minister Ayaz Sadiq, Mr Chitrali finally agreed to withdraw his comment and tendered an apology.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2022

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